A charity is bringing smiles to thousands of children who have a parent serving overseas this Christmas with special boxes filled with goodies.

Christmas came early for some lucky military children as they received special boxes filled with festive goodies from a charity that supports families with a parent serving overseas. Soldiers and students gathered in Bovington to pack 2,500 special Christmas boxes for children across the country with a parent in the British Armed Forces.

The boxes were organised by the military children’s charity, Little Troopers, as part of its Christmas Smiles campaign, which recognises that this is a tough time of year for children to have mummy or daddy serving away from home and aims to bring Christmas Smiles to these children over the holidays. This year, thousands of children across the UK will have a parent serving overseas this Christmas and miss out on school nativities, carol services, family get-togethers, and the magic of Christmas morning.

The Dorset volunteers, including soldiers from the Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment, students from Bovington Academy and people from the local community, spent eight hours packing the boxes, which they filled with charity resources from Little Troopers, as well as Christmas treats and goodies, including hot chocolate, reindeer food and Santa hats.

Minister of State for Veterans’ Affairs Johnny Mercer MP sent his good wishes to the volunteers in a video played at the start of the morning.

Louise Fetigan, founder of Little Troopers, said: “A huge thank you to everyone who joined us in Bovington. Christmas is a tough time for children to be separated from a parent, and we aim to bring Christmas Smiles to thousands of military children this December and help them feel special and supported.”

Students from Bovington Academy came along to help pack the boxes, including siblings Charlie (8), Dottie (7) and Pollie (6), whose Dad serves in the Royal Navy and won’t be home this Christmas. Dottie says, “I miss getting hugs and kisses from my Daddy when he’s away, and it’s sad I can’t celebrate with him. When children open the boxes, I hope they feel happy.”

Sara White, principal of Bovington Academy, added: “When a parent is deployed, it is naturally upsetting. We know first-hand the impact separation can have on children. As a school, we can offer expert support and pastoral care, and our Listening Ear project means there is always a compassionate adult listener for children who are feeling anxious about a parent who’s away. The Little Troopers’ Christmas Smiles boxes are a great way of making Christmas special despite the separation.”

The Little Troopers Christmas Smiles boxes have been made possible thanks to the Veterans’ Foundation, Pinnacle Family Services, RUK Advanced Systems and Day One People funding—special thanks also to JDT Utilities for helping to transport the boxes.

David Shaw, CEO of the Veterans’ Foundation, explained: “We are delighted to support this fabulous initiative which will bring smiles and happiness to military children this Christmas.”

Little Troopers has also organised many other activities for its Christmas Smiles campaign, including free cinema screenings, an online party, and a Christmas baking event. For more information, visit www.littletroopers.net

This article was published on Dorset Live, Dorset View and BBC News